Courgette & Pea Garden Soup Recipe

Summer is chuntering along and the veg plot is giving up little harvests every other day. I’ve tried to plant things in smaller numbers this year so that I don’t end up with massive gluts and a slight panicked feeling of “oh hell, what do I do with ALL THIS VEG.

As soup is one of my most favourite things to eat, ever (along with stews, indian dishes, mexican food and good old English veggie roast dinners), I’ve regularly been throwing together what I call ‘garden soup’ with whatever becomes available from the veg plots. Every batch tastes a little different, but has similar earthy tones and that unmistakable freshly-picked flavour. You can’t really go wrong with garden soup if you stick to the cucurbits, root veg, tubers and alliums… so mix it up as much as you like!

COURGETTE & PEA GARDEN SOUP (VEGAN, VEGETARIAN)

Pea and courgette soup recipe

Here’s my courgette and pea soup that I made recently. If I’m honest, I’m really not a fan of courgettes so it wasn’t my favourite soup ever, but Rich really liked it. I’m more of an allium/root veg fan but this recipe is essentially my standard veg soup, with less carrots and more courgette thrown in. I’ve included the variety of veg that I’ve grown if you’re interested in such things…

INGREDIENTS
2 x homegrown Hercules onions, chopped & diced
1 large clove homegrown Cristo garlic, crushed & chopped
2-3 large handfuls of homegrown Rondo peas
2 x organic carrots
2 x medium homegrown yellow courgettes, chopped
3 x homegrown Picasso potatoes, chopped & diced (any floury or second early potato will do)
4 TBSPS Marigold bouillon (stock) powder (Vegan)
Seasoning – cayenne pepper, cracked black pepper, oregano

METHOD
1. Sweat onions until soft in light olive oil/rapeseed oil
2. Add garlic and sweat for a couple of minutes
3. Chop and add everything else in
4. Add boiling water and stock powder – I like my soup quite salty so around 3-4 very heaped tablespoons does the trick
5. Add seasoning – again, I like quite heavy seasoning so am quite liberal with the cayenne and oregano especially

Bring to boil and then simmer for around 20 minutes, until the water thickens with the broken down potato. Take off the hob, whizz up with a hand blender, check seasoning and then serve with a great big hunk of proper rustic bread.

A Vegan Christmas – Easy Tasty Mincemeat Slice Recipe

Vegan mincemeat slice

Christmas is just around the corner so it’s time to get thinking about a few festive treats! As a vegan, there’s a limited selection of Christmas treats to enjoy in the supermarkets and shops… but that’s OK, because homemade is always so much better anyway!

First on my Vegan Christmas list are these gorgeous crumbly mincemeat slices. They’re quick and easy to make and can be frozen so you can double your batch sizes and keep rolling out the goods in the run-up to Christmas Day!

Vegan Mincemeat Slice Recipe

Ingredients
310g/11oz Self-Raising Flour
225g/8oz Pure sunflower spread (or dairy-free “butter”)
50g soft brown sugar or golden caster sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
400g vegetarian/vegan mincemeat (around one jar)
Flaked almonds (optional)

Method
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F and prep your tray bake tin (11″ x 7″) by greasing and lining.
Crumble the fat and flour together into breadcrumb with your fingers, or pulse in the food processor until your mixture has the texture of breadcrumbs. Then add the sugar and mix thoroughly.
Divide the mixture in half and use one half as your base – press firmly into the tray.
Spread the jar of mincemeat over the base evenly.
Add the mixed spice to the remaining breadcrumbs mixture and spread evenly as the top layer over the mincemeat. At this point you can also add the flaked almonds if desired.
Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes on the middle shelf.
Remove, dust with icing sugar if desired and slice into squares or rectangles… and enjoy with a cup of spicy mulled wine!

How to Make Sloe Gin

It’s gin o’clock… almost!

Sloes for gin

The sloes have been ripening on the blackthorn bush for what feels like weeks now, and quite frankly, my impatience got the better of me. I need some sloe gin ready for Christmas and the longer I have to let the sloes ferment, the better my gin will be. I mean, you could leave it for a year and you’ll have something amazing. In 5 years you’ll have the best sloe gin ever known to mankind. But I’m too impatient. And at this rate, with 23C temperatures in September, it’ll be a long while until the first frosts hit – traditionally when it’s advised that you pick your first sloes.

So to compensate for the balmy Indian summer, I plucked the sloes from my own homegrown blackthorn bushes (at night, I should add, in my pyjamas and armed with a head torch) and stored them in the fridge for a few days. They then went in the freezer overnight to simulate a cold snap. And now, we’re ready!

Sloe - blackthorn bush

How to Make Sloe Gin

It’s really quite simple. Sterilise your jar. Pick your sloes, freeze them to split the skins, wash them,  bung them in an air-tight container, then add gin and sugar. The volume of gin should be 1:1, so if you have a container, fill it halfway with sloes and the rest of the space is taken up with the gin. Simple. You can find my full How to Make Sloe Gin post here if you need a bit more guidance (and check out the comments for some top tips).

sloe gin steeping in a kilner jar

My gin is now doing it’s thing and waiting for me to take the first slug in December. It’ll need a turn each day for a while, and then a gentle shake every week or so until thereafter. I opted for a cheap Ikea airtight glass jar to ferment it, and sterilised by washing in warm soapy water and then drying in the oven on a low temperature for a few minutes. I’m pretty sure a run through the dishwasher would be fine too.

What Gin Should I Use for Sloe Gin?

The general consensus is that you don’t need a top quality gin to make great sloe gin – even just a supermarket brand will do. I was given a bottle of Bombay Sapphire for my birthday last year, and because I don’t generally drink much (apart from damson gin or sloe gin in winter, it seems) I’ve still got loads left. So for me, from a frugal point of view it makes sense to use the Bombay Sapphire, but equally if I was to go out and buy a bottle of supermarket own that would do the job.

How Much Sugar Do I Put in my Sloe Gin?

It depends on your tastes – anything from a couple of tablespoons of sugar will do the trick. I have a fairly sweet tooth, so anything from 150g per half litre of gin should do the job. If you have a really sweet tooth, around 250g sugar per half litre of gin should be plenty!

One last tip…

When foraging for sloes, please only take 10-20% of the fruit on the bush. The rest is for the wildlife.